My name is Frankie Owens I was prisoner A1443CA at Her Majesties Pleasure until 2nd August 2011. The number one question you're asked when you get out is “What was it like?” The recent 3 part TV series 'Strangeways' about the Manchester prison had 5.6million viewers, Porridge in 2004 was voted number 7 in a poll of the 100 greatest situation comedies.
“Society wants to know about prison life, an interesting place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there”
As a first time offender I had no idea, how the system or a prison worked. I was clueless to it all, it was hard for me going in and frightening for the family and loved ones I left behind. The writing began as self help and as the days progressed it occurred to me that the Little Book of Prison would prove useful to first time offenders and help them get through what is surely one of the most difficult times in their lives. It also motivated me to get out on the wing and find out as much as possible about my new home.
The title came to me on day 2 of going into HMP. I wanted it to be a guide book for first offenders and something that would be read by a wider audience. I think it will appeal to people who enjoy reading and have an interest in prison. If people want to know what prison is like it’s for them, if people need to know what happens in prison it's definitely for them.
“We have a national obsession with prison, LBP is unique as it’s not about the prisoner it’s about the prison”.
I read a lot of books about people in prison, people that were in far worse places than I was and on far longer sentences, this gave me a lot of comfort but I was most interested in the prison not the person. I liked the fact that I was writing a book that would help new inmates, their friends and families know what to expect from the system, this is what gave me the greatest comfort.
I went into prison February 2011, my life was in chaos - I was free falling into binges of alcohol and drugs whilst suffering from the mental illness hypermania. Everyone except me could see that something was seriously wrong but could do nothing to stop my self destruction. I was arrested 30 times in 4 months - my charge sheets were growing, the solicitors file was full to bursting.
I always relish a challenge, I like new life experiences but prison was extreme - I kept my ears open and my mouth shut. Nothing prepared me for prison it was a nervous and dangerous learning curve, I put a couldn't give a toss front on which I was sure everyone could see through. I had to stay mentally strong and the book helped me to stay focused.
I wrote five golden rules for The Little Book of Prison:
1. Keep your head down, do your bird, ride out your bang up
2. Its nice to be nice, be positive, entertain and see the bright side
3. Don't believe everything you hear in HMP
4. Pay your bills if you borrow
5. Never lose your cool
I won the 2011 Koestler platinum award judged by Will Self, the CEO of Koestler Tim Robertson also reviewed the book.
“Our awards judges don’t give a Platinum Award lightly, and this book is a winner on more than one level. It is a practical and totally frank introduction to real life in the British prison system - probably the best introduction there is. But it is also a wonderfully human narrative and a sharply argued critique - the wit and wisdom of one inmate who turns out to be a born writer. I was gripped from start to finish - roared with laughter one minute, winced with pain the next, and was left wondering why we have prisons at all.”
The Little Book of Prison is available to order at www.watersidepress.co.uk “If people want to know what prison is like its for them, if people need to know what happens in prison it's definitely for them”.
You can follow my Blog http://thelittlebookofprisonabeginnersguidevol1.wordpress.com/or join me on Twitter @FrankieOwensJnr
Once again thank you to everyone for your support I look forward to hearing what you think.
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